Waiting for Tom Hanks is cheesy, but it’s unabashedly so. It wraps its arms around you and charms you with its tropes and tries to make you love it, almost in spite of any grumpy misgivings you might have about it when you part its covers. It does have some nagging problems that means it doesn’t get a fully enthusiastic recommendation, but it’s readable and fun. Consider it more of a Money Pit than a Splash or Sleepless in Seattle.
Aspiring screenplay writer Annie Cassidy is yearning for her own Tom Hanks and a Nora Ephron-style meet-cute to decorate her life. After years of obsessing over the romcoms she and her mom used to watch together as comfort food – and comparing her own relationship to the seemingly incomparable one between her father and her mother – she can’t imagine living a life without meet-cutes, big sweeping love confessions and races to or from the airport. But sadly, she’s no closer to meeting her mister right – or having a fully independent life – than she was in her teens. Currently twenty-seven and sharing a Victorian house with her nerdy Uncle Don, she works at a local café while trying to force her own romcom to life. Just when it seems as if nothing exciting will ever happen to shake up her dull grey world, news arrives that director Tommy Crisante is going to shoot his next movie in her hometown of German Village, Ohio.
Annie, with some friendly nudging from her best friend Chloe and a personal connection via Don, applies for – and gets the job – of Tommy’s assistant. Annie hopes to both get some professional traction on her screenplay and meet her Tom Hanks on the set, and when she makes a pre-first-day visit to take a peek at the set she runs face-first into actor Drew Danforth’s chest, and it looks like fate has intervened at last.
Drew turns out to be a surprisingly kind and shy guy, but years of expectations and tabloid rumors about Drew means that Annie’s not receptive to the notion of his being her Tom Hanks. Another crew member, Nick, provides more of a Hanks-ian vibe – and then there’s Barry, whom Chloe sets Annie up with and who turns out to be a total mess. Will any of them turn out to be Annie’s Tom Hanks – or has he been right in front of her the whole time?
The only reason I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Waiting for Tom Hanks is the heroine. Annie is frustratingly immature and painfully credulous for a twenty-seven- year-old. The reasons for this are understandable; she’s put the breaks on her life to live in a fantasy world, and it takes a dose of reality to make her realize that not everything’s a silver-screen-ready moment – but that doesn’t give her a pass to be childlishly rude to Drew for large chunks of the book, often completely without reason. For someone so trope-savvy she’s completely unable to realize she’s living through her own romcom.
Drew is amusingly sarcastic and is warm and caring by turns. Honestly, by the end of the book I ended up wishing he had a better heroine to play off of. His half of the romance is cute but ugh, it takes Annie so long to grow up!
The book has a lot of great supporting characters. I loves sassy Chloe and caring Uncle Don (I couldn’t fathom why in the world Annie was embarrassed about his nerdiness – I found him super charming!), and I was surprised by sloppy rough-around-the-edges Tommy, who could fill up a book on his lonesome.
Another big boon is Winfrey’s total mastery of the art of the romcom. She obviously gets the genre, and knows it well enough to fondly tweak its clichés. A lot of the fun of the book is to recognize all of the little references and jokes as you read.
With everything but the heroine providing a worthwhile performance, Waiting for Tom Hanks is readable and enjoyable, but imperfect.
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